As a first grade teacher in a self-contained classroom in New Haven, I have a class of 26 mostly six and seven year olds with an occasional eight-year-old. Edgewood Magnet School is a neighborhood/magnet elementary school with over 400 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. With a fine arts focus, Edgewood’s rewarding environment has students coming to school each day from a variety of home circumstances and with differences in academic levels. As a result of these variables, the children have differing levels of background knowledge and life experiences. Each classroom is a mixture of varied ethnicities, economic strata and social and emotional strengths and weaknesses.
The New Haven Public School District requires a social studies focus on places and regions, historical thinking, interactions of humans and their environment, and responsibilities to families, community, state and nation for the first through fourth grade students. With these standards in our curriculum, a unit of study on neighborhoods and maps would invite and offer the students access and knowledge to build a firm foundation. Often subjects are approached in primary grades with the assumption that background knowledge is in place. Without a relative understanding to give the student some personal connection to the material, it can be difficult for the child to absorb and comprehend new information.
Developmentally, children in the primary level are cognitively at a stage that allows for learning best through order and sequencing. These two structures, order and sequencing, help a young child make sense of ideas, thoughts, concepts, and even things. They demonstrate a rationale for “what comes next” or “where something goes”. Many things in our world are ordered and have a sequence, but we are not always aware of the process that occurred to create the outcome. This curriculum unit will take the notion of learning sequentially and work from the micro to the macro -- starting from mapping the classroom environment to defining the school space to gaining an understanding of the neighborhood. The focus on sequence and order are instrumental in the flow of the lessons and acquisition of knowledge.